Sports and keto: how to combine it?

Keto is a quest for many. Athletes often wonder if it is something for them. Below you can read more about what to look out for and what the possible effects might be. Please note: everyone is different, so everyone will react differently.

Keto for the (intensive) athlete

It may be that the maximum 15% carbohydrate content is too low for you to be able to maintain your performance level. We therefore recommend you to make your diet more "adapted ketogenic", which leaves room for healthy carbohydrates such as tuber vegetables.

The most ideal way to get energy from your fats is to eat as few carbohydrates as possible during the first three weeks and thus force your body to switch to burning fat for energy (ketosis).

During this period your sports performance may be lower, but after this period you can gradually start adding more healthy carbohydrates such as root vegetables to your meals until your performance is on the same level or even better.

Debunking myths

Many say that eliminating sugar and other refined carbohydrates is unnatural. Primitive people survived for centuries without consuming these large quantities of carbohydrates and sugars. Our ancestors mainly ate what they found in nature such as meat, fish, insects and plant foods like nuts and berries which are rich in fibre.

Another big misconception is that you need carbohydrates to build muscle, this misconception is somewhat understandable. Carbohydrates allow you to gain mass faster, but some of it is converted into fat. The combination of sport and keto will probably make you gain muscle more slowly, but it will be fat-free as opposed to the excessive use of carbohydrates.

In order to build up this lean muscle mass, you should take these three steps into account:

  1. To gain mass, you need to eat more calories than you consume to prevent your body from breaking down muscle mass to compensate for a deficit. Fortunately, fat is high in calories and can be used to create a surplus very quickly.

  2. It is important to eat enough protein to build muscle mass. Proteins provide your body with amino acids, which are building blocks for the body. For a keto lifestyle eggs, red meat, fish, poultry and full fat dairy are suitable sources of protein.

  3. The transition from glucose as fuel (glycolysis) to fat (ketosis) takes time, your performance may be temporarily affected. After a number of weeks, when your body is used to this transition to fat burning, you will be able to train at your original level again. During these first weeks it is crucial to take this into account.

Top-class sport and keto

More and more athletes are making a radical change and are switching to keto instead of carbohydrates. Fitness expert and triathlete Ben Greenfield completed the Ironman triathlon in less than 10 hours, consisting of a 3.8 km swim, a 180 km bike ride and a 42 km marathon.

Endurance athlete and doctor Peter Attia swears by a high-fat and low-carb diet. In his own words, he would be 'freed from the constant craving for food during long swimming and cycling distances'.

It's important to try this out, just like any other lifestyle a keto while doing sports may not be a good fit for your body. But it sure is worth the try!